Title: Our Time is Running Out—Contradiction

Characters: Watson, Holmes

Warnings: physical threats, Alternate Universe, mental angst, hurt/comfort, illness: madness

Summary: Part 3 of the seriesHolmes' fears have caused him to leave for three years, but even that does not change the fact that Watson is still his weak point

Author's Note: I like this AU. I really do…I get to mess with Watson so much, and with Holmes as well. *cue evil laugh*Also blame the BBC Radio drama for their later usage of various stories that Doyle waved in front of us like treats for dogs.

Doyle: Don't you want to know about the Giant Rat?
Me and other Fans: OH, please oh please oh please?
Doyle: Sorry, no. But here are some Hiatus-defying stories!
Me and other Fans: *weep*

(You're something beautiful

A contradiction

I wanna play the game

I want the friction)

April was always full of showers, rain and otherwise. I had had my fair share of showers and loneliness, especially after the last April I'd spent in London before the trial of Moriarty's gang and our forced trip to the Continent. While I had wanted to, and indeed considered greatly, the danger this would put Watson into and how hard it might be on both of us, I honestly did not expect him to grow sick on that final day in Switzerland.

A relapse of the strain that had been given to him by Smith made it impossible for him to continue, and I continued on to the fated meeting between myself and Moriarty. When I learned that Moran was also at the Falls, I raced the other way, attempting to not think of the harm this would to do Watson's psyche, only thinking of what harm might befall him if I returned. Only when I was sure Moran was not following me did I return, late and under cover of darkness, to make absolutely sure he would not be taken, and more that he would recover from this return of that damned illness.

The thought of him being used in such a way, to be harmed because of me and my meddling into affairs…it still pains me to think of it, and it pains me more that I could not stay, nor could I bring him with me. I had to leave, and Watson was already delirious but recovering, his fever having broken around the same time I tossed Moriarty to his death. The letter I left, after sitting by his side much longer then I suppose I should have, explained the situation to a point, and I hoped him only the best, promising to return.

I still look at those three years with loathing, wishing that Watson had been at my side during those times. Fate had been cruel to take his wife from him, to put him in league with me when all I had done was bring about harm to him, and then to force him to be alone while I ensured the last of Moriarty's men were rounded up, and just as unhappily waited for Moran to make that great mistake which would allow me to capture him, as I had captured his master.

That had been a year ago. I had returned and, while my love of the dramatic and my want to see Watson had unluckily ended with him fainting and I spending a good few minutes being worried out of my mind that the strain had been too much for my dear friend, he had quickly recovered and joined me in bagging our tiger. It had taken much longer (and, on my part, a call to a cousin who was in the medical practice) before he had returned to our rooms at 221b, though a few of his patients stayed with him and he had to make house calls between helping at a local hospital and helping me on the cases that, apparently, had just waited to burst the minute I returned to London. Lestrade and Gregson joked that such things seemed to always happen around me, the darker and more complex problems forever falling on my shoulders.

The one I mention now is about Colonel Warburton and his madness. You see, in truth, Watson did not bring the case to me, so much as the case came to him first because I was who I was, and because of what had been written.

In short, it was once again my fault he was in any danger at all.

Colonel David Raphael Warburton was someone that Watson had met during a holiday from life that had ended with another extended holiday to Switzerland. He had known only the basics about the trial and the reason for Watson being in the country, and admitted he would visit Watson if he had any reason to go into London. It had been during that time that Watson learned Colonel Warburton disliked crowds, an infliction that had been brought upon him during his time in India and during the Afghan War. Watson had long ago wondered if the Colonel didn't have some mild form of enochlophobia or agoraphobia, but having never heard tale of it, he had to guess it was simply one of the traits that made Warburton avoid the city.

Watson winced as the gun pushed against the back of his head. He was currently tied to the chair in his practice, and his maid had been told to fetch Holmes with all due haste. Warburton removed the gun only long enough to pace a few times, breathing out. "I am sorry, John."

"I do understand to a point, Warburton," Watson answered calmly, sitting back and wincing as the ropes kept him from moving too much. "Why do you want to speak to Holmes?"

Warburton's motions turned jerky, causing Watson to not make eye contact. The last time he had, he'd gotten slapped for his troubles, and his cheek was still red from the force of it. "I just do! I have no choice in this matter, John!"

Watson stayed silent as Warburton moved again, the gun waving with his words just as there was a knock on the door. He quickly moved over to Watson's side, holding his head back and the gun against his temple before Warburton said, "Who is it?"

"Holmes," came the voice through the door, "You asked for me."

Warburton nodded to the unseeing door. "I did. Come in, and please no tricks." The door opened and Watson swallowed as Holmes walked in, freezing upon seeing the scene before him, "I don't want to do anything rash, sir, so take a seat and let me explain things."

Watson watched Holmes carefully. Since the incident four years ago with Smith, his colleague and friend had been very protective of him, going so far as to risk death by returning to ensure his safety the same night that Moran had chased him out of Switzerland. Watson had been grateful for the thought, but not when he worried over what might have happened to Holmes had he been caught. The three years had been hard, and had it not been for his work and for Lestrade's offer to help work as a Police Surgeon, he doubted he would've gotten through it as well as he did.

This was different, though, or at least this situation. He'd been threatened before but not in his workplace or home, and not because of Holmes. The few times on their investigation that things might have gone wrong was not so much a threat to one but to the whole group, and everyone shouldered the blame.

Smith changed it. Now, it seemed, Holmes was going to take all the blame for Watson being in such danger, and this situation could easily make him want to keep Watson from helping him. That idea, the idea of being left behind again, did not bode well for Watson, and he attempted to convey it to Holmes, even as Warburton pressed the gun against his head and spoke to Holmes, his voice and tone making it sound as if they were simply discussing something over tea.

"You see, I need your help in this. It seems I am in dire straits, concerning the fact that I keep seeing my servant here. It's quite…well, it's caused me a great deal of unrest."

"Your servant?" Watson had to admit he was surprised that Holmes' voice was as calm as it was.

"Yes, but the problem is, well, he's dead. He died years ago…it was all my fault, you see, and I've been quite unhappy with the city ever since. I came to visit Watson, and then, suddenly, he's everywhere. I cannot get rid of him. A thing done the same way he did that no one else knew, a person passing by in the light fog…you must understand the problem this leaves on one's nerves."

"I see," Holmes' voice was able to at least convey disdain, and Watson had to attempt to hide his wince as the gun dug further into his head.

"I did not come here to be made a fool of! I came for help! I need you to find out who is doing this! I want to—I need to know I am not mad, I am not seeing ghosts when I have never been haunted before!" the gun moved from Watson's head to point at Holmes, who stayed still in his chair, his face and eyes a blank mask that he sometimes gave in times of great danger when a situation needed to be calmed. "I have never had such problems before, and now they are haunting me because I have returned here, to this cesspool of a city, to visit a friend! I am tired of this…this injustice, this horrible thing that is done to my person! " Just as suddenly as his anger flared, it died, and Watson stayed silent, urging Holmes to do nothing rash as Warburton lowered the gun, looking at it like it was foreign and had not been in his hand before, then said, "I want you to find out what happened. I am perhaps haunted because I believe it is my fault and the courts said it was the fault of Fredrick, but either way…" he let out a breath, and Watson felt the back of his head being stroked in an almost intimate way before Warburton said, "Mr. Holmes, please leave. If you do not, and return without any evidence, I am afraid of what might happen to John, of…of what I might do."

At Holmes' continued presence, the gun suddenly went off, the bullet hitting the framed note that Watson had found when he woke in Switzerland alone, a few days after Holmes' retreat. Fear shone brightly in Holmes' eyes as the gun returned to its original target, the smell of gunpowder and the sound still ringing in the small room. "GO!"

Holmes left quickly, and shortly after the door was closed, Watson watched as Warburton finally sat down hard in another seat, his face in his hand. "I am sorry I made such a mess of things, John. I am very sorry."

I was quick to find the police file that Holmes requested, and he was just as quick to read through it, the nervous energy that I had known him to exhibit only on dire cases when someone's life was in danger now multiplied so that I had to guess it was Watson's life in danger.

One does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to notice these things. That I had known him in a professional quality far longer than most in the Yard only meant I was able to notice that he would do what could be done for his clients and the one friend he seemed to have allowed himself to acknowledge as such. I considered how best to put that Mr. Holmes was really a friend of all the Yard, but I had never quite found the reason or a situation in which to break it to him.

However, if Mr. Holmes never really realized how many friends he had in the Yard, Doctor Watson realized and did what he could for us all, to the point where he was considered one of our own. I had to admit that I had found the too-thin roommate of Mr. Holmes a trifle odd for him, and often wondered what it was that kept him by Holmes' side. Not that I wasn't grateful, but there were times I wondered if Watson couldn't have a friend outside of Holmes that, in the least, showed the good Doctor how important he was.

During the Smith case, I found that the Doctor, while more friendly then Holmes, was just as friendless. The few that were his acquaintances didn't know enough about him, and really his best friends were those of us at the Yard and, of course, Holmes.

"Why this case?" I asked as he sat, reading through the file with his normal speed, but happily not throwing papers everywhere as I'd seen him do with his own files.

"I was asked," came the reply that was more a growl then words before he stopped, slowing to look over the coroner's report then the statements. "There are contradictory statements from the main witnesses."

I moved over to look at the report, Holmes moving it so I could also read while he tapped his finger on the file, frowning. "Neither correspond to what was found, though. Why was Mr. Fredrick found guilty of manslaughter then?"

"Warburton's a retired Colonel," I pointed out, "and Mr. Fredrick was…of lower status. It doesn't matter if the Coroner's report disproved both statements, what mattered was the police evidence." I moved to look at that part of the file and let out a small curse. "That's why."

I had known Mr. Holmes to rally around Watson when he gave his statements at the Coroner's Court, and also to walk a fine line of nearly being thrown out for contempt of court by some judges. That the one who had preceded over this case was one of the judges didn't seem to help us any.

Holmes tapped on a few names, taking out a small pad of paper and pencil to write down the name of a witness for Mr. Fredrick before saying, "I need to check on these."

I frowned as he started to leave. "What about Watson?"

Holmes stopped and said, "If you or anyone else gets involved, it could be disastrous. I would rather that you keep this to yourself until I ask for help."

Before I could protest further, he was gone, and I was left to try and see if I could find out anything else on Colonel Warburton.

Holmes cast glances around the dingy bar that he'd tracked the man on the reports, Mr. Fredrick's business partner. Signs of the bar having once been a little better but the inability to fix or hire on enough people to make it remain as such stood out among the darkened lights of gas that obviously needed to be fixed, and because of that knowledge the use of candles was prohibited, as was smoking.

"Mr. Holmes?" the man took a seat and offered his hand, Holmes accepting it, "I'm Mr. Quincy. What can I do for you?"

Holmes took the man in quickly before saying, "You can start by explaining to me, exactly, what happened that made you wish Colonel Warburton harm. I only say this, sir, because if I do not find out, he may hurt my friend."

"You must be hungry," the unexpected statement had caused Watson to look at Warburton, blinking in surprise at the Colonel before he saw the older man nod. "Yes, you have to be. I interrupted at lunch, and it's getting late. I think I'll get us something to eat."

Watson had decided it was best to stay silent in these moments then to speak and risk provoking the very dangerous part of Colonel Warburton. Whatever it was that had caused him to have these violent mood-swings that could often bring about long bouts of lethargy was beyond him, and while he might suspect drug use, he had no real proof or a way of asking Warburton either.

Watson leaned further back against the chair, experimentally tugging at the ropes that bound him but they were still as tight as before, and sadly the chair was solidly made. Anything that he might use to cut the ropes was out of reach, meaning he would simply have to wait for Holmes to return with news.

The door opened again to readmit Warburton, who carried a small variety of mainly snack foods, setting it on the desk before Watson and looking down at the spread. "I've never really been one for cooking…not until I moved to the country, really."

Watson waited as Warburton moved over to the other side of the desk, picking up something and offering it to him. Watson frowned at it but mumbled "Thank you," before being fed the small biscuit. He refrained from comment as another was picked up and, this time, examined before being offered.

Watson soon became aware that the gun had been put down on the desk and the other hand was petting the back of his head, causing him to shiver out of worry and a strange fear. He almost didn't eat the third offered biscuit but felt that there was little choice in the matter and, well, he was hungry. He would need his strength to get through this.

"Do you know, John," Warburton said after the fourth biscuit and as his hand trailed to Watson's shoulders and neck, "you remind me of my servant. It's…it's always so odd, seeing you and remembering him instead. You even share the same name."

Panic was rising in Watson's gut over what could happen and what was happening, and he risked a glance up at Warburton. "Warburton, your man is dead."

The hand on his shoulder turned into a vice-like grip. "I know that. Do you not think I know that?" At Watson's silence, he was shaken violently and turned awkwardly to face the Colonel. "Well?!"

"I know you do…" Watson said simply, "but…you seem to think, to remember him, when I'm here. One might take that to mean you think I am him."

His shoulder was released quickly and Warburton let out a short, almost mechanical, laugh. "One would think that, would they? You're not as smart as I thought, then, to think that. No, no, you're not my John, you're Holmes' Watson! You're just a tool for that grain brain of his to use and discard, and you take it, don't you? You didn't leave him to his damned cases after all that happened, did you? He gives you a wife, and then, just as easily, he takes her away! What did you do that made him take away your pretty doll of a wife, hmm?"

Watson bristled at the verbal assault, attempting to keep himself calm in the hopes it would at least get Warburton to calm down as well. "He did not take her away, Warburton. She died--."

"Because he looked into something he shouldn't! He wasn't asked, he simply looked, meddler that he was, and what happened? I saw you after that trial, after the disease! All of that was his fault, and you don't have the spine to tell him so!" Warburton's hand came to Watson's injured shoulder and squeezed hard, his face inches away from Watson's as pain flared. "If I take a look at this wound, I'll see it's entering in behind you, isn't it? You retreated and they shot you like the coward you are!"

Watson tried to answer, but Warburton tightened his grip, causing Watson to cry out. The moment he did, Warburton suddenly let him go, stumbling away from him and nearly upsetting one of the chairs in the room. He looked visibly shaken, his skin now chalk white, and he swallowed twice before sitting heavily in the seat furthest away from Watson. "I…I'm so sorry, John. I don't mean to hurt you. I never mean to hurt you, I've always wanted to keep you safe. Yet in India, then again here…those damned cities always take you away from me. I cannot help but wonder…wonder if I should take you away now, to stop this cycle, to keep you safe." Watson started to speak when he saw Warburton straighten. "Yes…I should. I should take you away."

"Warburton, you asked Holmes to find out about John's death! If we leave, he won't be able to inform you, he'll send in the police instead, and then what? Then you'll be put in an asylum or prison and left there. Do you really think that you can protect me from there?" Warburton looked at Watson through this small speech, and finally slumped in defeat.

"You're right. You're always right. Yes, best to wait for Holmes, to find out the truth, before we leave. It's best that way. Holmes has to explain to you I'm not mad, and then we can leave, and stay away. We can stay and be safe…safe in the country…"

Holmes had, after the usual glare and finally an agreement that no one else should be hurt by Warburton's imbalance, to Mr. Quincy's private room in the back and offered a seat and some refreshments before Mr. Quincy went into his story.

"You've not heard about his other John, have you?" Quincy asked.

"I'm afraid not."

Quincy drained his own drink. "Also his servant, but in the Army…John Ranvier, I think his name was. He died over in India, supposedly killed during a riot, or, at least, that's what's been said about the poor sod. Warburton got kicked out because he couldn't handle it, and was sent to England. He ended up in London for a little while, and met his new servant, John Sanders."

"I take it that wasn't his real name?"

Quincy tapped on the table, looking around the room before shaking his head. "You've probably got the idea, I guess. His name should've been John Fredrick, but even with the same father you don't always get the same last name, wot? He came here to ask Fredrick for help, to get out of Warburton's service."

Holmes glanced back at him before saying, "Warburton said he's seen his servant in London before, and that it was his fault he died, though Fredrick took the blunt of the problems. Do you know what he meant?"

Quincy snorted. "Warburton's a loon, and an invert who's attempting to convince himself he isn't. It'd be easier if he just went after cute girls to prove it, but the man never married and then he takes out his frustrations on servants. It's not my fault the two who had odd deaths happened to be named John."

Quincy watched Holmes before saying, "Your friend…his name is John, ain't it?"

"It is."

"He has fairish hair? Mustache?"

Quincy did not think a man could show such fear in a short period of time before turning to such a horrid glare, as if sudden understanding dawned on him. "I want all the information, Quincy, or I will hold you responsible for what happens to Watson."

It was some time later that there was a knock on the door, I turning to look as Warburton raised his head dejectedly from the chair. It seemed odd to me that his mood swings were so wild, and that for the past few hours he seemed even less likely to suddenly attack me as he had earlier in the day. If I had to point my finger on it, I would have to say that Warburton had begun to calm down shortly after the small bit of food we'd had and when he'd turned violent.

Holmes walked in, glancing over at me then at the seated Warburton. "You are not going mad."

Warburton didn't speak as Holmes moved closer to me, though when he got to the edge of my desk the sound of a revolver readying caused him to stop as Warburton raised it and pointed it towards us. "Are you saying I'm already mad?"

Holmes stood his ground as I realized that perhaps this silence had not been the best for the poor man. "I leave that diagnosis to a professional doctor."

In the span of a few seconds, Warburton was up and across the room, striking Holmes with the pistol as the chair he'd been sitting in clattered to the floor. I started to call to him but the weapon hit me as well, silencing my protest.

"I did not ask for you to find anything to insult me with! Do you not think I know my own mind? I do not imagine dead servants! My shock at war and loss never comes with visions of the past, only this short temper you are witness to!" He lashed out at Holmes with his foot before stopping, moving back to where Holmes had been standing and now returning to point the gun at me. "I thought, perhaps without your friend in danger, you'd at least be kinder. I see now that I was wrong. You are a rude being, Mr. Holmes, and not at all worthy of keeping John by your side."

Holmes slowly sat up, blood trickling down the side of his head where he'd been hit and his gray eyes flashing quickly before turning back to their mask-like state. I worried over him but dared not speak again, unsure what it would do to set off this dangerous powder-keg that Warburton had become, as well as worried over what action Holmes might take if he saw me hurt even more. I already had the red mark on my face from Warburton's slap, and my temple was bruised from the earlier threats. The addition of a split lip had not upset me over much, but I knew it was beginning to worry Holmes.

"You are being led to believe in the hallucinations," Holmes muttered, "A man named Quincy is behind it."

Warburton stopped, his movements once more almost mechanical in nature. "Quincy? Are you sure?"

"I have spoken to him myself and gained the confession. He wished that you would suffer for what you did to your servants." I winced at the plural as Holmes slowly stood. "I know about the other John in India, as well as the one here. You were sent back to England because India was becoming too hot for you as well, isn't that right Colonel?"

"Yes," Warburton muttered, moving closer to me, his gun slowly turning as a hand reached out to grab the back of my head. "I didn't mean for it to happen. It was all too fast…"

Holmes seemed uninterested in the tale, "It happened too fast here as well, far too fast for anyone but Mr. Fredrick to be clear on what, exactly, happened. Yet he lied in order to cover up the fact."

I found my voice in the confusion. "Holmes, what do you mean?"

Holmes took in a breath before saying, "The John who died in London was not going to leave Warburton's service as some thought. Indeed, he enjoyed the service and wished nothing more than to heal the Colonel of the ghosts. Mr. Fredrick didn't take kindly to it because John was his younger brother. He thought that Warburton had bribed him." Holmes' eyes were on the gun as he finally stood fully. "Quincy was uncertain for years who it was that ended up pushing John in front of the carriage, and thought it was Fredrick. The problem was he thought it was to save his brother from a life of being a kept boy." Holmes' eyes flicked to me so quickly I barely noticed the movement, and I realized the rest of it.

"When I asked him here, Quincy decided to start making him appear mad, to put him in an asylum."

"He didn't know what you looked like," Holmes admitted, "because, in truth, he could find any number of fair-haired boys who looked like John from England, but there were very few who looked, as you do, like John from India."

The matter was delicate, more so then almost any that Holmes had come across, even more then bursting into Smith's room and demanding he go to Watson's home to cure him.

Watson had not really heard much of that part, as it had only been glossed over in the trial that focused more on the wronged then on the person who should've been held responsible for it. Holmes, then, had not had to verbally recollect how he burst in, demanding Smith save Watson and his wife from that disease he was sure Smith was a specialist in, had offered up anything he could if Smith would do this one thing…even falling to his knees after demanding if it was what Smith wanted, for him to beg like a street-dog for a scrap of meat.

Holmes would have done that over and over if it meant getting Mary Watson back to his friend. He would crawl until he was bleeding if it meant keeping Watson from harm.

Warburton's hand holding the gun was shaky, the other calm as it petted Watson's hair, a sight that made Holmes' blood boil. He didn't know the dangers of this but he knew that he had to act quickly if he was going to, at least, get Watson out of this and hopefully get Warburton out of their lives.

"He…I didn't…"

Holmes kept his eyes on the gun more then on Warburton. "No. You had nothing to do with his death."

The gun came up quickly, forcing Holmes to stop, watching the small tremors that ran through the former Colonel. "T-then I have to leave with John. I have to keep him safe."

"You cannot keep him safe by keeping him prisoner," Holmes argued as Warburton's temper flared again, the man moving forward to almost put the gun against Holmes' chest, his other arm releasing its grip on Watson. "Would you keep him safe? Holmes the busybody! I know of your work and your deeds! You are an annoyance to all and a scoundrel among men! Higher power you think you are, yet you meddle in the affairs of others, acting like the old Gods on high, and don't think you can't be burned by such things? You have already caused him enough trouble by depriving him of a wife because of your callous and cold heart, how long before you get him killed?"

His own anger flared, not so much because these words were his own flung back at him by a man who only pretended to care for Watson when the bruises on his face were a testimony against it, but because it had taken him three years to come to terms with the truth, with the one thing he didn't think of before Moriarty but had taken into consideration afterwards.

"Even if it is my fault," Holmes growled back, realizing the danger of the situation, "I will take that responsibility, as I do whenever my work forces danger upon my only friend. I will not have you stand here and lecture me when you have done nothing to show that you will not harm him more than my asking him on a case and warning him of danger would do!"

Warburton struck again, Holmes hitting the floor hard but now fighting back, kicking up to send the man backwards into the wall, losing the gun in the process before the tall detective scrambled for it, keeping it trained on the mad man before him, who seemed to have lost all his fight after the brief scuffle as Holmes slowly moved around to where Watson's chair was, getting between his friend and the man who'd held him hostage for the day.

"Warburton," he finally said, getting the man's attention, "get out of here. Go to the country and rot there. Quincy only tormented you because he did not realize the danger." In a lower growl, he added, "If you ever contact Watson again, I will turn you in to the police!"

Shakily, Warburton stood slowly, looking between the angry Holmes and the blank face of Watson before going to collect his hand and cane.

"Forgive me," he finally muttered, "I did not realize the danger of entering a city."

It was not until Holmes heard the front door shut that he turned and began to untie Watson. "Are you alright?"

"I've had worse," Watson muttered as his arm was freed. "Holmes," he finally asked as his friend began working on the next one, "do you truly blame yourself for Mary's death?"

The great detective paused, only chancing a glance to his friend before saying, "I do. For all that the Eastern mysteries help me at times, I still have the guilt of knowing that package should've been for me, that you never should've been hurt , that perhaps Mary should be alive today and you a father. It was, as Warburton said, my own meddling that ruined your life in such a way, that left you almost a shadow of a man."

Watson let out a breath as the final knot was undone before saying, "Holmes, if I'd been married, would you have taken me with you, to Switzerland?"

He paused at that, beginning to untie Watson's bound legs and then continuing as he said, "I am…uncertain. Part of me knows I would've told you anyway, tried to get you to come along with me in the hopes of not being lonely. But should Moriarty attempt to harm you, or you joined me at the falls when Moran had that damned rifle pointed at us? Would I risk the possibility of your death in a foreign country?" the task finished, Holmes slowly stood and helped Watson stand, walking with him as the feeling slowly returned to his legs. "I am sorry, Watson."

"Holmes," Watson said as they paused near the ruined picture frame. "This is not your fault. That I could not diagnose a disease that remains mostly inside Sumatra is no one's fault but perhaps my own, for not having enough books. Mary's ill-health was known before the disease, and…" he paused before continuing, "and I doubt very much that she would've survived. The colds were getting worse each year, Holmes. That disease only quickened her death."


"It is not your fault," Watson's voice cracked but the meaning behind it was firm. "I invited Warburton. It is not because of you that I was a target again." Watson breathed in steadily before almost slumping over, Holmes' strength the only thing keeping him upright. "I want to go home."

To say that Mrs. Hudson worries about her tenants is a mild understatement. She worries like a mother over her children, and sadly said grouping of children grew since Holmes introduction of the Baker Street Irregulars to the house. Despite this and her constant mothering of the street Arabs who viewed Holmes with awe and often hung on his every word, her main concern had always been the two, and if she was truthful, it had been ever since she saw them on her doorstep, asking about the two rooms.

When greeted, in a sense, to a bruised and emotionally drained Watson, held up by a not-so-equally bruised but an equally emotionally drained Holmes, she wasted little to no time in moving them upstairs, insisting the Doctor spend the night on the couch or in Holmes' room while she got them food and tea. It was obvious the two needed to speak about something, but she doubted it was so much talking as much as Holmes being reassured the good Doctor was still there.

Despite Holmes' continual nature and comments of being a loner, Mrs. Hudson had seen him when the Doctor had been married, and he was perhaps even more prone to melancholy and a want for conversation. The few cases the Doctor had helped on, as well as the few times he'd had to stay over for the night, had always left Holmes happier for days then the cases without the Doctor, even the long and challenging ones.

She returned with the tea to find Doctor Watson asleep and covered and Holmes sitting at the table, motioning for quiet as he watched his friend, who now sported bandages as best as one directed by a doctor could do.

Holmes let out a sigh. "I have made a mess of things, Mrs. Hudson."

"You didn't," she said, "It's always been that choice of either ignoring what you do and hoping you'd move away or simply going along to find out where you took us. I enjoy my quiet life here, for all that happens above my head, and he would not have recovered as he did if it wasn't for you giving him that purpose, something to do with his writings and with his life." She patted Holmes on the shoulder. "It doesn't matter what you say or do, Doctor Watson will ensure you're safe, even as you will do the same for him."

Holmes closed his eyes for a long moment then looked up at her and smiled. "Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. I suppose now we must worry about Lestrade coming to visit in the morning, and see what he says."

With a nod, Mrs. Hudson headed down to ensure that the small dinner would be ready, hoping only for the best of her two lodgers.

There were two things I wished to speak to Mr. Holmes about that next day, and was rather annoyed with the news of Warburton, though happy to hear that Holmes had gotten Watson out with relatively little harm.

I shudder to think of what might happen to either of them, should one go before their time, and even more now, I fear that Mr. Holmes would not last more than a year without the Doctor to watch over him.

"Now then, Lestrade, about this case you have for me--."